Day in and day out, quality team members work to assure consistency and food safety. We work with meats and poultry, eggs and dairy, vegetables and fruits, bread and sushi. We work in all industries doing our part to get food from the farm in a condition that assures that it can survive distribution and consumer handling until it reaches the fork.
Most of us studied some form of the sciences — microbiology, chemistry, engineering, biology. Many of us studied all those elements in a degree that combined it all: Food Science or Food Technology.
But no matter what we studied or how we got where we are, we are all the product of someone who came before us. Someone with a vision who ensured we studied the right topics, learned the right things, and learned how to make it all come together to make safe, consistent-quality foods.
I’ve been lucky in my career to have several mentors or people who helped me become who I am today. My first boss, the folks who took a chance to hire me and turn me into an auditor and consultant, and others. Each of these people had something in common. They were all members of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), and they were all active in some way. Most were also members of other professional societies: the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), etc. Bottom line is that they were members and active members. Each encouraged me to be active and learn from others in the group.
GIVING FORWARD. As I’ve aged, I’ve started to think about how I can give back to those who have mentored me by giving forward to those who will replace me.
I’ve been able to do some of this with the many good people who work on my quality team. I know I’ve helped some learn, improve, and then advance to the next step in their careers. I’ve been lucky to have a few great members who’ve advanced beyond probably even their own expectations. I trust there was some inspiration from me in their lives that helped them grow and progress.
But I’d really like to be able to give forward to more than just the few individuals with whom I work. And I think I’ve finally hit on a way.
FEEDING TOMORROW. The priorities of the IFT foundation, Feeding Tomorrow, are to encourage the best minds to pursue careers in the science of food; to encourage, promote and reward excellence for students pursuing careers in the science of food; and to bring together the collective knowledge of the food-science community to pursue food and nutrition solutions for those in need. As such, Feeding Tomorrow manages the monies that provide scholarships in food science. I believe this is an excellent platform for supporting the future of our industry, and I have decided this is where I, with your help, would like to make a mark and support our future.
I have set a goal to collect $100,000 to be put toward student scholarships. This could be an easy task if I knew one person who could contribute the full $100,000. But I don’t. I also don’t work for a company that could contribute the full $100,000. So my next thought was to find 100 people with the same mindset as me who could contribute $1,000 each. That’s not so easy to do either.
CAN YOU SPARE A SAWBUCK. So, I ended up with the goal of finding 10,000 friends and workers in the science of food who can contribute $10 each. That, I truly think I can do.
But I didn’t want to just ask for money — no matter how worthy the cause. I want to encourage and inspire giving in a way that will show my commitment on a bigger stage that represents my colleagues, to motivate others to show their commitment to the future of the science of food.
So, at the ripe young age of 60, I will be competing in the Atacama Crossing run in October. The Atacama Crossing is a seven-day, 250KM run across the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The run is a self-supported, multi-day, rough-country footrace — across sand dunes and salt flats, and through desert canyons. Self-supported means that I will carry everything I need in a pack, except a tent. Water and medical care is provided at check stations. The lowest altitude for the run is 6,800 feet. (For more information visit http://www.4deserts.com/atacamacrossing, and visit my blog on the site, http://www.4deserts.com/atacamacrossing/blogs).
My preparation requires a lot of sacrifice — I’ll be running quite a bit, training in many ways; I’ll have to give up some of my gardening time and other pleasures. I know the sacrifice will be very worthwhile, because there will be so many people who also care about the future of food science with me on this. Including you?
HOW YOU CAN HELP. You don’t have to complete this amount of sacrifice to show your commitment. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting your career or are in mid-career, or even, the twilight of your career; I’ve set the goal to enable everyone to join in.
Everyone can contribute $10. Skip that double caffeine espresso macchiato, no foam one day, and commit that money to help fund deserving students’ education. Pack a brown-bag lunch for a couple of days, and put those dollars toward helping students afford their education. Carpool to work for a few days and contribute that saved amount of gas money to ensure students get worthwhile scholarships. There are so many ways to save $10 that can be contributed to our future competence in the science of foods.
I’ve also made it easy for everyone to contribute: visit http://www.gofundme.com/foodsciencerun. Add in your $10 (or more if you can or are so inclined). Then keep your eyes on the site October 2-8 to see how I do. I’m looking forward to seeing your contribution and earning your commitment to our future. As always, feel free to contact me at QA, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruce Ferree is Director of Quality, California Natural Products.